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Amnesty International called for the suspension of the Official Secrets Act yesterday to enable former intelligence officers to give evidence during the government’s child abuse inquiry.
The call follows claims by an ex-soldier involved in military intelligence that he was told to shelve an investigation into sexual abuse at a boys’ home in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
Home Secretary Theresa May has faced widespread calls from politicians and lobbyists to include the Kincora Boys’ Home in the child abuse inquiry following revelations about serial sex offenders including Jimmy Savile.
The inquiry was set up to examine how public bodies handled their duty of care to protect children from predatory paedophiles.
Brian Gemmell said he was ordered to halt his probe into Kincora by a senior MI5 officer in 1975 after presenting a report on the allegations.
Mr Gemmell said he found out about the abuse through two sources, including an agent called Royal Flush, while he was gathering information about loyalist paramilitaries.
“I was summoned to go and see him (the MI5 officer). I went up thinking he was going to be pleased with me,” he said.
“He bawled me out. He was rude and offensive and hostile. He told me not just to stop any investigation into Kincora, but to drop Royal Flush.”
Another former army officer Colin Wallace has previously said any new investigation of Kincora must have access to information from intelligence agencies.
In 1981 three senior care staff at the east Belfast boys’ home were jailed for abusing 11 children and it has been claimed that people of the “highest profile” were connected.
Amnesty International Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said: “The focus must be the protection of children, rather than officials and their dirty secrets.”
Mr Corrigan added: “The Home Secretary must announce the inclusion of Kincora in the inquiry and an exemption so that army officers and others bound by the Official Secrets Act can finally speak freely.”
A public inquiry in Northern Ireland into institutional child abuse between 1922 and 1995, which is sitting in Banbridge, faced possible suspension last month due to a lack of funds.
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